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“Art broke into everyday life” | The Street Art of Valparaíso

Street art by Anis in Valparaiso, Chile

If we loved the street art in Santiago and Buenos Aires then our little minds were blown to smithereens in Valparaíso. It was like falling down the rabbit hole: colours flashed, otherworldly beings loomed, and the twisting, turning stairs and alleys echoed the expansion and contraction of our minds. Valparaíso is a haven for street artists and tags, throw-ups and murals are literally everywhere. Artworks cover entire buildings and fill the smallest gaps, even overlapping when space gets really tight. Subject matter varies from political to whimsical and styles from brutal to delicate. As viewers, we were amused in one moment, uncomfortable in the next; pure delight kept us rounding one more corner (just one more) to see what treasures we would find.

Street art in Valparaiso, Chile - mural by Inti

Above: Large mural by Chilean artist, Inti.


Casting about for an historical account of street art in Chile (see here and here for a good start), I learned that it emerged as a form of protest under the regime of Augusto Pinochet. Although political murals had appeared earlier (Salvador Allende used street art for promotion during his 1963 presidential campaign), under the Pinochet dictatorship murals were used to criticise and question the authoritarian government. Furtively painted under the cover of night, street art was a safe way to speak out about the unemployment, poverty and torture experienced by the community, even if these subversive acts were painted over by day. One website recounts the activism of the group, Collective de Acciones de Arte (CADA), which used small airplanes to drop 400,000 fliers over Santiago one day in 1981. The flyers urged people to appreciate the role of art in “expanding the usual levels of life” and as explained by Michele Wiesen:

The text was not an advertisement for consumers but an invocation that appealed to reflection on life and art, and the identity of the individual and the group… Appealing to the union of art and life in this repressive reality was an openly rebellious act, from a poetic and formal metaphor: airplanes can drop fire not only of pain but also disguised in words in order to open up new spaces of meaning… Art broke into everyday life, raised its voice, and subverted language structures to activate the collective’s memory.

As the dictatorship collapsed during the late 1980’s, artists became bolder and by the 1990’s Valparaíso was emerging as a hub for street art – but not without controversy. Some members of the public viewed street art as vandalism, but as styles and skills grew, artists relied less on tags and throw-ups and began to explore modern and avant-garde styles, using painterly techniques and developing larger, more complex murals. The street art scene was buoyed further by a government ruling that supported graffiti provided that the artist had obtained the owner’s permission (this is the same concept that has stimulated the growth of street art in Buenos Aires more recently). Today it is impossible to imagine Valparaíso without its art, which is legitimised and embraced as an expression of the city’s unique culture.

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Anis

Above: large mural on Cerre Alegre, painted by Anis from Abusa Crew. Abusa Crew is a group of street artists, whose work is inspired by women and informed by efforts to liberate women throughout South America. Anis also painted the mural in the first photo for this post.


Between the two of us, Colin and I took hundreds of photos and whittling them down was difficult. I’m only able to share this selection (a handful of the best) by promising myself to share the rest on my Instagram page over the next few months. In addition to selecting and editing, I’ve spent hours searching Google images in an attempt to identify the artist for each piece. The majority of pieces remain unattributed (please leave a comment if you can identify any of the artists), but most prominent artists were easy to find. Chilean artist Charquipunk paints with a distinctive style using lines and colour to suggest movement (see the three images below). He is also fond of painting birds, so it wasn’t long before we could pick out his work:



Street art in Valparaíso isn’t always high quality and for every stunning mural there are a hundred hastily spray-painted tags. Some pieces that were once great have been long neglected; walls revealing a mish-mash of peeling pasteups, layers of images, fading paint, rust, grime and decay. It’s messy at times, but it’s all part of the scene – every street artist makes their debut with a tag and the exposure of artworks to sun and rain means that they can never be static images. Like the community itself, street art lives and breathes in a precarious cycle of creation and degradation, appreciated for a time but eventually replaced or removed to make way for something else.



Above: collaboration mural by the artists Cern, LRM, Inti and others.


Street art in Valparaiso - large mural by Teo Doro

Above: tags and stickers in the foreground; mural by Teo Doro Vidaingravita in the background.

In addition to a healthy and growing population of local artists, people come to Valparaíso from all over the world to paint murals and add a piece of their own history to the city. The mural below is by the surrealist Argentinean artist, Martin Ron, whose work we also saw in Buenos Aires. A tagger has added a rough moustache on the upper lip of the face.

Street art in Valparaiso - mural by Martin Ron

The piece below is called “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. It’s by the German artist, Otto Schade, who cites Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Banksy among his key influences:

Street art in Valparaiso, Chile mural by Otto Schade

French artist, Mr. Papillon, is responsible for this gorgeous mural of a vibrant young girl radiating warmth and happiness:

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Mr Papillon

I like the idea that we could go to Valparaíso in ten years time and find a completely different display of murals. There will always be some sadness for the demise of particularly beautiful art, but it’s this transitory quality that is part of its appeal. It’s not for a gallery, it’s not to be preserved, it’s not to be bought and sold. Street art is about a collective conscious, about hopes and dreams and what’s important now.

Street art in Valparaiso Chile

To close, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Un Kolor Distinto, a team of two artists who are an institution in Valparaíso. Sammy Espinoza (Jekse) and Cynthia Aguilera (Cines) have painted together for years. Their pieces are usually enormous, colourful, surrealist and always feature two characters (Cines paints the female characters and Jekse the male). Their works were some of our favourites and here I am with one on our second-to-last day in wonderful Valparaíso:

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Un Kolor Distinto

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Winter Market Salad | Citrus, Roasted Beetroot, Bitter Leaves

Winter Market Salad with citrus, beetroot and bitter leaves

With all the pie and pudding around here lately, I’ve been thinking about something light and fresh to balance out all that butter and sugar. This is more difficult than it should be during winter, when all I really want is warm, spicy and comforting food of the stick-to-your-ribs variety (not to mention hearty red wine with everything). There’s nothing sadder on a cold winter’s day than dutifully masticating on raw carrots or flavourless lettuce because you need to get your 5+ a day. The only way to create winter salads that I’ll willingly (and joyfully) eat is to give them my serious attention, so here is my advice to you: you can’t just throw a few cherry tomatoes or slices of cucumber on a plate and expect to be happy! It takes effort. Load in as much colour as you possibly can, include a range of flavours, think carefully about how to balance acid with salt, sweetness and bitterness, and never, ever forget about the textures. With variety, contrast and balance, your salad will effortlessly move from mundane to memorable.

Red, gold and chioggia beetroot

Winter Market Salad

Lately I’m getting my motivation at the farmers market where stalls are piled high with flavoursome winter produce. Most enticing is the beetroot, with deep red-purple skin and perky leaves still attached (which are excellent cooked like spinach). If I’m lucky, there will be golden beetroot too and maybe even the gorgeous Chioggia with its pink and white candy-stripped flesh. Citrus is at its best right now and I can’t resist these beautiful orbs in glowing colours of orange, yellow and green. And radishes grown in the cool of winter are delightful: juicy, mild and extra-crunchy.

Winter Market Salad with roasted golden beetroot

Winter Market Salad - red beetroot and sorrel

Winter Market Salad with roasted Chioggia beetroot

I created this salad recently drawing solely on the contents of my market bags. The base is comprised of beetroot which has been roasted under a cover, trapping the juices deep within the flesh. The sweetness and earthiness of the beetroot contrasts beautifully with the bright notes of segmented grapefruit and orange, and the lightly roasted radishes provide a touch of pepper and a satisfying crunch. In the photos I used lemony sorrel and a handful of rocket to form the background greenery, but the second time I mixed in bitter radicchio which was even better. Persimmon and pomegranate weren’t really needed, but added extra sweetness and colour. Red wine vinaigrette pulled the whole together.

Roasted beetroot and radishes Winter Market Salad

I ate this salad with half an avocado and felt vegan and virtuous for a full and glorious hour…until the familiar craving for cheese and cake kicked back in. Sigh. The struggle is real, but so much easier (really) if you can just figure out how to make great winter salad.

For more inspiration, check out this other great salad from last winter featuring red cabbage and pickled fennel.

Winter Market Salad with Beetroot, citrus and bitter greens

Winter Market Salad with Citrus, Beetroot & Bitter Greens

6 medium beetroot, mixed variety if possible
Bunch of radishes
1 red grapefruit
1 orange
2 fuyu persimmon
100g bitter leaves such as radicchio or rocket
Bunch sorrel leaves (optional)
1 pomegranate (optional)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF. Wash the beetroot and slice off the stems but do not peel them. Place the beetroot into an oven-proof dish, cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 45-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the beetroot with paper towels to remove the skins and slice into chunky wedges.

The radishes can be left raw or prepared similarly to the beetroot: washed and trimmed and encased in foil, although I roast them for only 15-20 minutes to ensure that they retain most of their crunch.

While the vegetables are cooking, remove the peel and white pith from the grapefruit and orange and, working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice between the membranes to segment the flesh. Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl of citrus juices and whisk together to form the dressing. Peel and slice the persimmon.

Create a nest of radicchio, rocket and/or sorrel (or other winter leaves) on a single large plate or individual plates. Arrange wedges of beetroot, citrus flesh, persimmon and sliced radishes on each plate and drizzle over the dressing. Complete the salad with a scattering of pomegranate arils.

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Travel Journal | Valparaíso, Chile

Beautiful Valparaiso, UNESCO World Heritage site

Vibrant Valparaíso was easily the highlight of our South American holiday last year. From the moment we stepped off the bus after a nine-hour trip from Mendoza, we knew that we were someplace special. Although it is Chile’s fourth largest city, Valparaíso is less a sprawling metropolis and more a jumble of buildings clinging to cliffs and jostling for space; the result of a topographical environment marked by steep hills and gouging ravines. It’s a schizophrenic experience to drive through the streets: dip down and it feels like a modest village; head up the next rise and you feel dwarfed by towering hillsides and houses like giant Lego bricks, twisting and tumbling to the sea below. There are stairs everywhere in Valparaíso and when you tire of climbing, there is also the option of using one of the marvellously quaint funicular elevators (the oldest built in 1883) that will carry you up or down the hillside for a pittance.

View from Pablo Neruda's House

Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, Valparaíso had been an important sea port for international trade. This history of wealth and diversity and a transient population of hard-drinking, hard-working sailors, dockworkers, prostitutes, merchants and opportunists, has left its mark on the gritty and bohemian city. Pablo Neruda, Chile’s beloved poet who owned a house here for many years, coined a poem to the city which begins: “Valparaíso, how absurd you are, what a lunatic, crazy port, what a head – rolling hills, disheveled, you never finished combing your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you”. This is exactly how it feels: Valparaíso constantly surprises. At every turn there is more colour, more street art, more stairs and alleyways, more beauty (and frequently) less beauty, another glimpse of something new; in short, too much to know what to do with.

Valparaiso Chile

We arrived in Valparaíso just as the sun was just beginning to set, but the streets were a hive of colour and activity. Our taxi whipped us through narrow streets and up a steep, cobblestoned hill to our (fantastic) hotel. We had elected to stay in the Historic Quarter, which is a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage site. Our stomachs were ready for dinner, so after checking in we walked a few minutes around the corner to the restaurant strip. Maybe it was hunger, maybe it was just Valparaíso, but as we arrived on the corner of Templeman and Urriola streets, we were momentarily stunned by the fairytale view of cobblestones, quaint shops and restaurants and twinkling lights. Trying not to appear like turistas estúpidos, we picked up our jaws, surveyed the the restaurants in our immediate vicinity and made an quick decision to try Almacén Nacional, which specialised in Chilean food. Up to this point, our culinary adventures in Chile hadn’t been particularly memorable, but it was a different story in Valparaíso. That night we demolished a deeply fragrant seafood soup served in bowls as big as our heads, washed down by pisco sour (of course).

Valparaiso, Chile 2016

The next day we had cereal and coffee at the hotel, but ever hungry for protein in the morning, we spent most of the morning wandering the streets looking for a second breakfast of eggs. In the process we climbed Cerro Alegre, which was partly shrouded in mist and took the first of hundreds of photos of the amazing street art which was literally everywhere (the best street art photos will come later in another post).

Exploring Cerro Allegre, Valparaiso

Street art hunter, Valparaiso Chile

The Historic Quarter is full of colourful and quirky buildings housing art galleries, cafes and boutique stores selling local crafts, jewellery and design. Around every corner are a million photo opportunities and despite the chilly weather, we happily spent the entire day exploring the area. Around lunchtime we finally found a cafe that served our raison d’être (omelette) and this kept us going until night fell when we sought out more fish soup – this time, a chowder so thick that I was defeated before I had even finished half the bowl. The bubbles in the fantastic wheat beer (Cerveza Baron, made locally in Viña del Mar) probably didn’t help the situation.

In the Historic Quarter, Valparaiso Chile

The Yellow House, Valparaiso

Historic Quarter, Valparaiso

Historic Quarter, Valparaiso

We had five nights in Valparaíso, which allowed plenty of time for leisurely wandering. Each day we took a new direction, seeking out the divine and the dilapidated in equal measure. It was a wonderful, eye-opening adventure but one that was undeniably tinged with fear. I lost count of the number of locals who warned me that my camera made me a target for mugging. Valparaíso does have a reputation for being unsafe and although this seems to have improved recently, outside of the Historic Quarter we felt very conspicuous as tourists. I took furtive photos whenever it felt safe to do so, stowed the camera away in Colin’s backpack at all other times, and even left it at the hotel once or twice.  I don’t want this to deter anyone from visiting this wonderful city, but it is clearly important to be extra careful. This blog post has some great tips for staying safe during your visit.

Street art everywhere

Barrio Bellavista, Valparaiso Chile

Rusty gate, Valparaiso Chile

One day, I forget which but it was certainly the most memorable, we decided to make our way to the cemetery perched atop Panteón Hill that we had admired from afar while sipping wine on the neighbouring hill, Cerro Concepción. Panteón is home to three cemeteries, Cemetery No. 1 and No. 2, and Cementerio de Disidentes which was created for the burial of “dissidents” or non-Catholics. We enjoyed a quiet couple of hours wandering around the tombs, alone except for a few caretakers sweeping the paths. The site might have lacked the magnificence of the inner city cemetery we had visited in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, but it more than made up for it with incredible views over the city.

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Valparaiso, Chile

Cemetery on the hill in Valparaiso

Cemetery on the hill, Valparaiso

Leaving the cemetery, we walked up into the hills and followed the twists and turns of Av. Alemania all the way to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house, now a museum. No photographs were allowed in the house which killed me as it was one of the most beautifully evocative house I’ve ever seen. It has the unmistakeable feel of an artist’s playground and sanctuary and it’s where Neruda lived while writing his Nobel Prize winning works. On leaving the house and walking back through Barrio Bellavista we became caught in the rain that had threatened for days. We dashed into a nearby restaurant (Espiritu Santo), pulled up at the bar and attempted to dry out. Our coffee arrived with a complementary snack of chewy homemade bread served with a small pat of butter heavily sprinkled with salt and pepper. The calm ambience, hospitable service and the taste of that amazing bread made such an impact that we promptly made a reservation for lunch the next day. Venturing outside again we found a bright world washed clean by the rain.

Barrio Bellavista, Valparaiso

On our very last day we explored a bit more, heading up to Cerro Artilleria with its expansive views of the port and sea. After a final lunch and a final pisco sour, we returned to the hotel to check out then travelled by bus to Santiago for our long flight home. Of all our travel memories vibrant Valparaíso remains the strongest and purest; a fitting way to mark the bittersweet end of our incredible South American adventure.

Valparaiso Chile

Commercial District, Valparaiso Chile

Valparaiso Chile

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Don’t lose your nerve | Perfect Chocolate Pudding

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

It took five tries to get this pudding right.  On the fifth try it was finally, exactly what I wanted it to be – voluptuously indulgent, chocolatey but not too intense, cool and silky smooth. I got it right on the fifth try because I didn’t lose my nerve, cooking it for precisely three times the specified length of time.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

I’ve made so many chocolate puddings over the years. My first experiments were with Chocolate Pots d’Creme (especially variations on this recipe); a simple idea that involves whisking hot cream through chocolate, egg yolks and vanilla before setting the mixture in the fridge. These dense, dark Pots were delicious, but so intensely rich that after a while I found them overwhelming. I switched to Chocolate Mousse (often this recipe) with its airy, whipped texture, and then to Molten Cakes (also called Chocolate Fondant) and their lusciously liquid centres. All undeniably wonderful but always just a bit too much, if you know what I mean; too cloying on the tongue or too heavy on the stomach. This divine Chocolate Pudding has finally won me over, and what makes different is that it’s based on milk, gives butter a miss, and is cooked like a custard. Overall it’s lighter and more subtle in flavour, fulfilling all of my deepest chocolate needs without making me break out in cold sweats.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

In the quest for perfect chocolate pudding I’ve really been trying to capture the feeling of one that I loved to eat as a child. Like many kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in New Zealand, you could always find little packets of Greggs Instant Pudding in our cupboard. We only had it as an occasional treat, but our bowls of cool, fluffy pudding were always joyfully devoured, even when paired with the (equally ubiquitous) canned fruit salad. Yes…I realise that the terms “packet” and “instant” aren’t usually associated with culinary greatness, but my childhood memories put this pudding beyond such judgements. I get nostalgia-overload when I think about it.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

So what exactly is Greggs Instant Pudding? It’s a good question. Early versions of the packaging don’t list any ingredientsnot a single one, which is…silencing and actually quite impressive. In fact, the closest thing to an ingredient list is the statement “Artificially Coloured & Flavoured” displayed prominently on the front. This had disappeared by the time I would have started eating it as a toddler in the late 1970s, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was probably still there in tiny print on the back. Who knew what was in it but what you did was beat it into a pint of milk and wait five minutes for it to become a thick, aerated, spoonable pudding – every hungry kid’s dream. It came in a range of flavours but I can only ever remember eating the chocolate. Then, as now, the thought of the lime, orange, and lemon flavours makes my stomach feel all curdly.

Greggs always had a slightly gritty texture, which didn’t bother me then and of course it was sweeter than it needed to be, which probably masked a range of sins. I wanted a silky, not-too-sweet pudding, but beyond that it was the lightness of Greggs and its lack of chocolate intensity that I was seeking. It feels almost ridiculous today to admit to a desire for less chocolate (surely what you mean is triple chocolate? 85% cocoa solids? death by chocolate?) but there it is. You can have too much of a good thing, and it turns out that of chocolate, I want less.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

This recipe was already so close to my ideal in terms of flavour and all I had to do was reduce the  cocoa powder and chocolate slightly. It’s still very chocolatey, but in a comforting way that won’t give you palpitations. The texture took longer to get right, and the first three times I undercooked it but didn’t realise until I went to eat it and found it as runny as a milkshake. On the fourth try I got closer, but on the fifth I cooked it for a heart-stopping 12 minutes, which is much more than the 3-5 minutes specified. It could just be my interpretation of “low temperature” that’s to blame, but it’s probably more to do with experience. You’ll know that your pudding is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon very thickly, when drops that fall off the spoon leave a visible ring on the surface of the pudding, and when you take it off the heat it begins to get thicker almost immediately. Don’t lose your nerve for this pudding and you’ll be repaid in the most delicious way.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

Perfect Chocolate Pudding

Adapted from Pastry Affair

3 cups (750ml) milk (full cream or light; not skim), divided
1/3 cup (scant) sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
80 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
To serve (optional): 1/4 cup flaked almond (toasted), fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl (preferably one with a spout for pouring), whisk together 1 cup of milk with the sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot, cocoa powder and salt. When well blended, whisk in the egg yolks and set  to one side.

In a large saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir the milk frequently to ensure that it doesn’t burn. As soon as milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot milk, stirring steadily but gently to incorporate. Continue cooking and stirring until pudding is luscious and glossy and thickly coats the back of a spoon, up to 12 minutes.

Remove the pudding from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Whisk in the chocolate until completely melted and smooth (if you have trouble with lumps, you can strain through a sieve). Pour the pudding into individual serving bowls or cups and then chill in the fridge for at least one hour. The pudding will thicken even more as it cools and chills.

Serve the pudding with toasted flaked almonds for a pleasing textural contrast, and/or fresh raspberries.

Filed under: Eat